On February 17, 2016, ten members of the House of Representatives, led by Hank Johnson (D-GA), joined with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting that the State Department look into violations of the Leahy Law by Israel and Egypt. The Leahy Law stipulates that if a military unit of a recipient of US military aid is shown to have committed a “gross violation of human rights,” aid may not be provided to that unit, and any aid given to the country in question cannot be used for the unit that committed the violation(s). The letter specifies several cases in which Egyptian or Israeli units are accused of such violations. The Foundation for Middle East Peace issued the following statement in support of the letter.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC: The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) strongly supports the congressional letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting assurances that Leahy Law restrictions are being applied to Israel and Egypt. The letter, led by Representative Hank Johnson and signed by nine other representatives and Senator Patrick Leahy, notes specific incidents where grave violations of human rights by Israeli and Egyptian forces are alleged have occurred and calls on the Department of State to investigate these accusations and to determine what action, if any, should be taken under the Leahy Law.
“If enforced properly, the Leahy Law provides a strong barrier against American taxpayer dollars being used to support human rights abuses” said Matthew Duss, President of FMEP. “As the top two recipients of American military assistance, accounting for about 75% of all U.S. military aid, it is critical that allegations of human rights abuses by these countries are promptly investigated to determine if they violate the Leahy Law. More broadly, the State Department must ensure that strong oversight is uniformly applied to all recipients of U.S. aid to ensure compliance with U.S. laws, including the Leahy Law, the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export and Control Act.”
The Foundation expresses its gratitude to Rep. Hank Johnson (GA) for authoring the letter, and to Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) and Reps. Andrè Carson (IN), Sam Farr (CA), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Betty McCollum (MN), Jim McDermott (WA), James McGovern (MA) and Chellie Pingree (ME) for signing on to it.
The Leahy Law has been used to suspend aid to military units of U.S. allies several times. The congressional letter expresses concern that Israel and Egypt are not being subjected to the same level of rigorous monitoring applied to other aid recipients. Congressional oversight and a uniform system of monitoring are crucial to ensure that all recipients of U.S. aid are treated fairly and that U.S. foreign aid does not make the United States complicit in human rights violations.